New date for Norwich 'Walking Out Of Darkness' event

The mental health equality event has now been rescheduled.

The Norwich ‘Walking Out Of Darkness’ event, which was previously scheduled for this month, has been given a new date of Sunday 29th September.

‘Walking Out Of Darkness’ events are held every year in several cities across the country in solidarity with sufferers of mental ill health. The theme of this year’s event is ‘Mental Health Equality for All’.

Previous events have been a success with thousands of people, participating to raise funds for mental health and suicide prevention charities in their community.

Former mental health minister and local MP, Norman Lamb, who has attended previous 'Walking Out Of Darkness' events, highlighted the importance of the event, stressing that it provides “a fantastic opportunity” to promote mental health equality. He called on Norfolk councils to “properly promote” the event, so as to ensure that maximum awareness is raised of the important causes that ‘Walking Out Of Darkness’ events are in aid of.

Norman Lamb MP said:

“‘Walking Out Of Darkness’ events provide a fantastic opportunity for communities to come together and promote mental health equality for everyone.

People who suffer from mental ill health face a situation where they are stigmatised and do not receive parity in our healthcare system. ‘Walking Out of Darkness’ events are a brilliant chance to show solidarity as well as raise money from mental health causes. Previous events across the country, have been a huge success.

I’m calling on all councils in Norfolk to properly promote this September’s ‘Walking Out Of Darkness’ event.”

Notes:

Communities are invited to participate at the Norwich event on Sunday 29 September by registering at www.walkingoutofdarkness.com

Businesses, schools, universities and organisations in the Norfolk region are invited to be part of the Norwich ‘Walking Out Of Darkness’ event by contacting CLASP Charity at hello@claspcharity.com and help support sufferers of mental ill health in our community.


Norman Lamb receives knighthood for public and political service

Longstanding Member of Parliament for North Norfolk, Norman Lamb, was awarded a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours for public and political service.

Norman Lamb is recognised as being the catalyst for changing the Government's re-prioritisation of mental health services and remains a national campaigner for mental health awareness. Working alongside Jeremy Hunt in the Department of Health, he ensured that parity of esteem between mental and physical health became a Government priority and that progress was made in
implementing it across the health service. Indeed, this work can be seen as leading the Government’s contribution in removing the stigma around ill mental health and has led to great cultural change across the UK.

Since leaving Government in 2015, he has continued to campaign for mental health awareness and provisions from the Opposition benches, acting as the Party’s Health Spokesman. Following his re-election in 2017, the Commons elected him to the Chairmanship of the Science and Technology Select Committee. In 2018, he was praised by Members across the Commons for his work in pursuing issues raised by campaigners in connection to the unexplained deaths at Gosport Memorial Hospital. This has led to widespread abuses being uncovered.

He was first elected to represent North Norfolk in 2001 and served the Liberal Democrats in a number of positions, notably on the Treasury Select Committee and as Health Spokesperson 2006-2010 and Chief of Staff to then Leader, Sir Ming Campbell. Norman served the coalition Government, first as PPS to Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg and Assistant Whip, then as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs in BIS before moving to the Department of Health as Minister for Care and Support.

Norman Lamb MP said:

"I couldn't quite believe it. I am thrilled and honoured and very surprised!

I am actually aware that there are an awful lot of people who do amazing work and do not get any recognition or honour. I continue to admire them immensely, but when it happens to you, obviously it's special.

The citation produced by the Honours Secretariat particularly mentioned my mental health work - a cause that I am passionate about, and one which has affected my own family. These are the things that really motivate me. My passion remains fighting injustice and pursuing causes that I care a lot about, particularly the treatment of those with mental ill health and those with learning disability and autism."


Local MP celebrates North Walsham phone mast connection

MP for North Norfolk, Norman Lamb had raised the much-delayed Brick Kiln phone mast in Parliament.

A North Walsham phone mast, which will serve the Marshgate, Brick Kiln Road and Spa Common areas of the town, has now gone ‘live’.

For many years, local residents have received virtually no mobile phone signal. Now, with the new mast due to host Vodafone and O2 signals, people in North Walsham will find their phone signal much improved.

The case for improved mobile phone signal was accepted some time ago, and in June 2017 a planning application was approved for a mast on an Anglian Water site at Marshgate.

However, despite the mast being erected by December 2017, significant delays ensued in getting the mast connected and operational.

Norman Lamb MP and North Walsham Councillor Eric Seward met with BT Openreach, who were responsible for the mast’s connectivity, in November 2018. In this meeting Openreach accepted that the delay had gone on for too long.

Then in March 2019, Norman Lamb, raised the issue of the delay in the House of Commons to Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The mast is now connected, and went live on May 30.

Norman Lamb MP said:

“I’m very glad that the new phone mast has gone live. For many local residents, being able to use your mobile phone is an essential part of life. Now – finally – people who live near the Brick Kiln Estate and Spa Common will be able to receive phone signal.

Obviously, this has taken far too long. It is wholly inadequate that the mast has been standing but not in operation for nearly 18 months.

But I’m happy that we’ve finally arrived at the destination, and the mast is up and running.”

Eric Seward, Norfolk County and North Norfolk District Councillor for the area, said:

“After a long battle, improved mobile phone coverage has arrived. I am very pleased for local residents who have had to put up with poor mobile phone reception for far too long. This is a very significant improvement to amenities in North Walsham.”


Science and Tech Committee encouraged by Government response to social media report

The Science and Technology Committee has published the Government Response to its Impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s health Report.

Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said:

“I welcome today’s response to our Report into the impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s health. The recent Online Harms Government White Paper made significant announcements, endorsing key recommendations from the Report and we are encouraged by the Government’s willingness to tackle this issue.

It is vital that progress is made to legislate and to prepare an effective statutory code of practice. Social media companies have a duty of care for children and young people using their sites and we are pleased to see that the Government has decided to make this a central focus moving forward.

We will continue to watch and wait. In the next year my Committee may choose to hold another evidence session on the issues covered in our Report to check that the Government’s actions meet its ambitions.”

Notes:

More information can be found on the Science and Technology Committee's website. The Government's response can be viewed here.


Whorlton Hall hospital scandal must be ended by Health Secretary

Norman Lamb MP, a former Health Minister, has called for the Secretary of State to personally commit to ending the ongoing scandal at Whorlton Hall hospital as uncovered by Panorama. 

The abuse and mistreatment of vulnerable adults at a specialist hospital has been uncovered by the BBC's Panorama programme.

Undercover BBC filming shows staff intimidating, mocking and restraining patients with learning disabilities and autism at Whorlton Hall, County Durham.

A police investigation has been launched and 16 staff suspended.

On Thursday morning, 23rd May, Norman Lamb tabled an Urgent Question in Parliament to: "ask the Minister if she will make a statement on the treatment of people with learning disabilities and complex needs at Whorlton Hall."

In response, the Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage MP, stated that:

"... The allegations of abuse at Whorlton Hall were shared with my Department, NHS England, the Care Quality Commission and the provider ahead of the programme airing yesterday. Immediate steps were taken to ensure the safety of patients, including ensuring that safe staffing levels were maintained following the suspension of a significant number of staff by the provider. A Whorlton Hall incident co-ordination group was established, involving NHS England; NHS Improvement; Cygnet, as the owner; the CQC’s regional head of inspection; the local clinical commissioning group; and the local authority.

Durham constabulary opened a criminal investigation earlier this month, and the CQC and NHS England are supporting its enquiries. While that investigation is ongoing, I cannot comment on the specific incidents or individuals depicted, as Members will understand. The evidence presented, including but not limited to the “Panorama” footage, must be thoroughly examined, and where those investigations find that allegations of abuse are substantiated, action will be taken ..."

Norman Lamb also asked whether the Government will take action to end the endemic use of restraint—including face-down restraint against adults and children—five years after he issued guidance to that end. 

Norman Lamb MP said: 

"I applaud Panorama for uncovering a disgusting culture at Whorlton Hall. This abuse of people with Learning Disability and Autism is profoundly disturbing. There must be severe consequences for those who are guilty of this behaviour but also for the company who allowed this to happen. There can be no place for providers who allow this to happen. What was uncovered was not a one-off incident, which would be bad enough, but a whole rotten culture. 

The bottom line is that far too many people with LD and autism still end up inappropriately in these institutions when they are capable of living in the community with support. This is a shameful abuse of their human rights. They continue to be treated as second class citizens. 

Incredibly, the Transforming Care programme, intended to get people out of institutions, ended in March and we are still waiting for a replacement programme. 

I call on the Secretary of State to personally commit to ending this ongoing scandal and for the Government to commit significant additional resources to building community support to enable people to live better lives out of these institutions."


Local MP raises concerns about spending on Children's mental health support in Norfolk

Children with mental health problems in Norfolk are losing out compared to other parts of the country according to local MP and mental health campaigner Norman Lamb.

North Norfolk MP, Norman Lamb received a letter from Nigel Boldero and Howard Tidman, Co-lead Governors on behalf of the Council of Governors, at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust which outlined spending on local child mental health support.

The letter followed a report published by Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England. The findings of the report are extremely concerning, particularly for the East of England region. A subsequent Guardian article stated that: “Children who need help with mental health face a postcode lottery[1].

The report shows that there are wide variations in spending between regions which is severely impacting the children’s mental health support that is available. Looking specifically at the East of England, spend per child is shown as £5.32, staggeringly less than the £17.88 for a child in London.

Norman Lamb MP has written to the Matt Hancock MP; Secretary of State for Health, Melanie Craig; Executive Lead for Norfolk and Waveney Sustainability Transformation Partnership and Sara Tough; Executive Director of Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council to highlight these alarming figures.

In his letter, Norman Lamb MP has asked for clarification regarding how spending on children’s mental health support in Norfolk compares with other comparable councils and asks what steps are being taken by the Norfolk and Waveney STP to address the severe shortfall in local spend.

Norman Lamb MP said:

“I am dismayed that such huge variations in spend on children’s mental health support occur from region to region.

It is wholly unacceptable that children and young people face a postcode lottery when it comes to receiving the support and care they deserve and are entitled to.

I have written to Matt Hancock MP, Melanie Craig and Sara Tough to seek urgent clarification on the figures released in this report. I also want to know what the Norfolk and Waveney STP plan to do to ensure the East of England doesn’t continue to fall so far behind when compared to the rest of the country on spending on children’s mental health support.  

Our children and young people in Norfolk, and across the region, deserve to have access to mental health support. At present, they are being badly let down.”

Notes:

[1] Guardian Article: Children who need help with mental health face a post code lottery – study.   https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/apr/10/children-who-need-help-with-mental-health-face-postcode-lottery-study


Norman Lamb teams up with Martin Lewis to demand end to threatening debt letters

Norman Lamb in Westminster Hall

Receiving intimidating letters demanding money from those in debt has been likened to "someone standing in front of you with a knife" in a debate called by Norman Lamb MP.

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, led a debate in Westminster Hall on Tuesday 21st May in support of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute's Stop the Debt Threats campaign.

The institute's research found more than 100,000 people in debt attempt to take their own life in England every year and one factor was letters from creditors.

It is an issue MoneySavingExpert founder Mr Lewis, who is also founder and chairman of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI), previously said was "destroying lives".

Mr Lamb is a member of the charity's advisory board, alongside MP colleagues Johnny Mercer and Luciana Berger.

He said the letters those in debt receive are often written in intimidating and complex language, and can feature threats of court action right at the top. Receiving these letters from multiple lenders on a daily basis can leave people feeling threatened and unable to see a solution to their situation.

He gave the example of man named only as Paul, who lives with bipolar.

Norman Lamb MP said:

"When he's on a high he would go out on spending sprees, funded by loans and during periods of depression he would struggle to pay his bills and often spends money to help himself feel better.

Paul said being hounded by creditors left him feeling trapped and helpless, and he tragically made attempts on his own life."

Mr Lamb also read a statement in Paul's own words, which said: "The letters you get from creditors are horrendous , they were like someone standing in front of me with a knife. So I wanted to get rid of them, I would just put them straight in the bin or burn them."

The MMHPI campaign to make changes to the letters has been backed by Mind, the Samaritans, Citizens Advice and Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Helen Undy, MMHPI chief executive, said:

"The rules on debt collection letters were meant to ensure that people know their rights and where to get help, but they're having the opposite effect. Instead, the intimidating and threatening language of these letters can leave people hopeless and unsure where to turn."

Mr Lamb also highlighted the death of 20-year-old Jerome Rogers.

Mr Rogers was a motorbike courier from south London, whose death has been the focus of the BBC drama Killed By My Debt.

Norman Lamb MP said:

"Jerome took his own life at the age of only 20 after receiving two £65 traffic fines that escalated to more than £1,000 of debt. His mother, Tracey, believes that the combination of the intimidating letters he received and the threatening bailiffs who came to his home were significant factors in his death. She also says that if the letters hadn't been so frightening, and if Jerome had been able to get the right support when he needed it, he would be here today."

He added that people with mental health problems were three times more likely to be in problem debt.

More than 6,000 people previously signed a petition to make changes to the letters received by those in debt.

Norman Lamb MP said:

"What's particularly galling is that lenders are in fact forced to send these threatening debt letters due to out-of-date legislation introduced nearly 50 years ago.

The content of debt letters is dictated by rules in the Consumer Credit Act (1974), which compels lenders to use obscure and intimidating language.

It also obliges them to include obsolete advice for people in debt to consult their solicitor, which overlooks the availability of free debt support from charities such as StepChange and Citizens Advice, and the fact that for many people, access to a solicitor is impossible."

To sign the petition to change the letters, visit https://www.moneyandmentalhealth.org/debt-threats/

Notes:

The above is taken from an article featured in the Eastern Daily Press by Geri Scott on 21st May 2019.

The Westminster Hall debate can be viewed in its entirety here.


Norman Lamb hears about impact of alcohol on health

Norman Lamb with Adrian Chiles

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, joined the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA)’s Parliamentary Event to celebrate the recent strides forward in alcohol policy and outline the many challenges that remain.

The ripples of harmful alcohol consumption pass from individuals, through families and communities, and impact our society as a whole. These effects are substantial and wide-reaching as alcohol contributes to the death of 65 people every day in England alone1, is involved in 39% of all violent crime in England and Wales,2 and costs NHS England £3.5 billion every year.3

The most substantial recent development in alcohol policy has been the adoption of minimum unit pricing (MUP) in some, but not all, parts of the British Isles. Last May Scotland led the way by introducing a 50p MUP, and Wales will do so this year. This policy, which means no alcoholic product can be sold at less than 50p per unit of alcohol, targets the highest strength, cheapest products and has little to no impact on pubs and moderate drinkers. MUP will also be introduced in the Republic of Ireland in the near future, but there are no current plans to do so in England.

While it is still too early to say what the impact of MUP in Scotland has been so far, it is expected to deliver significant health and social benefits. In England, the introduction of MUP is expected to save 525 lives and prevent 22,000 hospital admissions every year. 4

Norman Lamb MP said:

“I am acutely aware that alcohol can, in some circumstances, have a truly devastating effect on individuals.

I was pleased to attend this reception on Parliament, and support calls for targeted, evidence-based programmes that will allow us to reduce alcohol harm. I strongly support the introduction of a Minimum Unit Price.”

Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the AHA, commented:

“The magnitude of the impact of alcohol on our society is truly staggering.

The forthcoming Prevention Green Paper provides a great opportunity to reduce these levels of alcohol harm and allow England to catch up with its neighbours.

We are calling on the Government to also introduce minimum unit pricing in England, a policy that can save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of episodes of harm each year, without significant cost to those who consume alcohol in moderation.”

Notes:

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) is a coalition of 50 health and alcohol organisations who share a common interest in reducing alcohol-related harm, and who campaign for evidence-based policies to reduce this harm. Members include medical royal colleges, charities, patient representatives and alcohol health campaigners. For more information, please visit: www.ahauk.org

Sources:

  1. PHE, Local Alcohol Profiles for England (2016);
  2. ONS The nature of violent crime in England and Wales: year ending March 2018 (2018);
  3. PHE Health matters: harmful drinking and alcohol dependence (2016).
  4. Angus C. et al, Alcohol and cancer trends: Intervention Scenarios, University of Sheffield and Cancer Research UK (2016).

Benefits tribunal waiting times increase again in Norwich, local MP discovers

Norman Lamb calls the 6 month average waits a “denial of justice”.

Norman Lamb said that “the system is imposing an intolerable financial pressure” on people forced to wait an average of 6 months for benefits appeals cases, as latest data showed waiting times are increasing.

The average waiting time for ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) claimants at tribunal was 26 weeks in October to December 2018 – an increase of 4 weeks compared to the figures covering July to September 2018. This was the longest average waiting time since at least April 2015.

That means that if an ESA claimant’s case was received by the courts on the 1st January, they wouldn’t receive a final decision until the last week of June.

For other claimants, the picture slightly improved but overall remains poor. The average waiting time for PIP (Personal Independence Payment) claimants at tribunal was 25 weeks, according to figures released covering October to December 2018. That means the average wait has fallen by 1 week compared to the figures covering July to September 2018. But claimants still have to wait nearly 6 months for their appeal to be heard.

When decisions are finally made, they strongly favour of the claimant: 7 out of 10 PIP and ESA claimants received a decision in their favour, demonstrating that many original decisions are wrong.

Norman Lamb, former social care minister, uncovered the figures. He called on the Government to take action to halt the rise in average waiting times. He has received assurances from the Minister responsible for the courts that judicial appointments are being made in an attempt to reduce waiting times.

Norman Lamb MP said:

“Justice delayed is justice denied, and when people are waiting six months on average, that is a denial of justice.

These lengthy waits would be shocking even if they were only experienced by 10 or 25% of claimants. But a 6 month wait is just the average!  

Waiting 6 months for an appeal when in many cases the person has been pushed into financial distress is intolerable.

It is difficult to understate how traumatic the experience of waiting so long for a tribunal decision can be. Some of those claimants will have desperately needed their PIP or ESA decisions reversed. And the high success rates of claimants is evidence that the Government is forcing people to take claims through the lengthy tribunal process too frequently.

I recently met with the Minister to lobby for improvement, and received assurances that judicial appointments were being made to reduce delays – but we are yet to see any real impact of those appointments.

My concern is that the waiting times are continuing to rise – not just in Norwich but across the country. Further rises in the 2019 figures for Norwich would be unacceptable.”

Notes:

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was introduced in October 2008.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was introduced in April 2013.

‘Average weeks’ measures the average number of weeks from receipt in HMCTS to final outcome within the period.

Success rate is calculated by the calculating the number of ‘Decisions in favour’ as a proportion of the number of total decisions.

The number of total decisions is calculated by adding ‘Decisions upheld’ and ‘Decisions in favour’.

‘Decisions upheld’ are those cases where the original decision by the First tier agency is upheld.

‘Decisions in favour’ are those cases where the original decision in revised in favour of the customer.

For ESA claimants in Norwich, the average wait in Q2 2018-19 was 22 weeks; the total number of decisions was 70 and the success rate was 77.14%.

For ESA claimants in Norwich, the average wait in Q3 2018-19 was 26 weeks; the total number of decisions was 174 and the success rate was 78.74%.

For PIP claimants in Norwich, the average wait in Q2 2018-19 was 26 weeks; the total number of decisions was 255 and the success rate was 67.06%.

For PIP claimants in Norwich, the average wait in Q3 2018-19 was 25 weeks; the total number of decisions was 217 and the success rate was 70.05%.

Figures were released as part of the Ministry of Justice’s “Tribunals and gender recognition certificate statistics quarterly: October to December 2018”.


Norfolk MP's to meet Minister Rishi Sunak to discuss local government funding

Today in Parliament Norfolk MP’s will meet with Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP, to discuss funding of Norfolk County Council.

In January 2019, Norfolk County Council Leader Cllr Andrew Proctor wrote to MPs setting out the challenging circumstances the Council faces in developing a budget for 2019-20 and then 2021-22.

Cllr Proctor outlined the significant difficulty in ensuring the continued delivery of demand-led services without guaranteed multi-year funding from central Government.

Norman Lamb coordinated a letter, signed by five other Norfolk MPs requesting a meeting with the Chancellor or another Treasury Minister.

This meeting will take place today (Tuesday 14th May 2019) in Westminster.

Norman Lamb MP said:

“I was pleased when MPs from other parties signed my letter requesting a meeting with the Minister to discuss the financial challenges faced by Norfolk County Council.

In today’s meeting with the Minister I will stress how serious the financial situation in Norfolk is.

The decisions that Norfolk County Council will be making when setting out their budget will impact many vulnerable people in our communities. I am acutely aware that many who rely on council services are set to lose out, including many elderly and disabled people in need of care and children and young people at risk.

I am hopeful that the Minister will listen to our concerns. It is imperative that the Government addresses the funding of local government.”


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